From Red to Blue in 2010

The California Democratic Party convention may be lacking a clear statewide vision for the state’s future. But one thing that’s not lacking is local leadership to expand the Democratic ranks. While there’s a lot of attention being paid to the major statewide races in the media, it’s in the races for state legislature and Congress where the future of this party and this state is being made.

There are two places in California that stand out to me as the locations of expanded and renewed Democratic power: the Central Coast and Orange County.

Yesterday, before the Taco Truck Throwdown got under way, a group of Democrats from the five counties that comprise the 15th State Senate district – Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara – gathered by the pool to hear John Laird rally the troops for his likely campaign to win back SD-15 from the Republicans.

Laird is one of the most important Democrats in the state, a solid progressive who can provide some of the leadership California needs. When – and it does seem it’s a question of when, not if – the legislature confirms Abel Maldonado as Lieutenant Governor, Laird will have the chance to help get Democrats to 2/3rds in the State Senate (along with neighboring SD-12, where Anna Caballero is running to replace Jeff Denham).

His campaign will not only show how Sam Blakeslee, the likely Republican, is a rubber stamp for the right wing, but will also make a clear case for why Democrats are the party to bring economic recovery to the Central Coast and protect our core services, from schools to parks.

Given the importance of winning 2/3rds, and the fact that Laird is simply a great candidate, this race will have to be one of the top priorities for Democrats in addition to the key statewide races.

In addition to the fight for 2/3rds, Orange County is where a potentially transformative fight for the future of this state is unfolding. While usual group of wingnut Republicans have been ignoring the needs of their OC constituents, grandstanding to please the Grover Norquists of the world, their constituents and their districts have undergone dramatic change. Irvine, the largest city in AD-70 and CA-48, has become a diverse city that regularly elects Democrats to city offices, including mayor. Other cities in Orange County have followed similar trajectories, and find their basic needs are being neglected by a Republican establishment that takes their power for granted.

We’ve already seen signs this is changing. In 2008, Debbie Cook won 46% of the vote in CA-46, challenging Dana Rohrabacher. That same year, Bill Hedrick won 48% of the vote against Ken Calvert in CA-44, and Barack Obama actually carried CA-48. Here in 2010, candidates in Orange County are bucking the conventional wisdom that OC is red – and that 2010 is a year for Democrats to play defense.

Beth Krom is running for Congress in CA-48, challenging incumbent Republican John Campbell, a birther who has done hardly anything to help his constituents and has in fact actually undermined them through his votes against funding local projects and health care. Krom has a strong base in Irvine, where she served as mayor. Krom has been working the local communities hard, and addressing their health care, education and economic concerns, while Campbell continues to ignore all of these. Krom’s successful local background gives her the credibility to make the case to local voters; she is the right kind of candidate to win here.

Similarly, Melissa Fox is running a very strong campaign to succeed wingnut hero Chuck DeVore in AD-70, which covers much of the same ground as CA-48. Fox drew a large crowd to her event Saturday morning at Starbucks and is getting more attention from Democrats around the state as another strong candidate who understands the district’s needs that the wingnuts have so long neglected. Fox has a particular focus on education, which resonates in a district that prides itself on good schools but face deep budget cuts that jeopardize educational quality – and in turn, jeopardize home values.

Krom and Fox aren’t getting the kind of institutional support from the state and national parties they deserve, which is unfortunate. Democrats need to aggressively expand the field going into 2010 not only for the short-term tactical benefits of tying down Republican resources, but also to help achieve the longer-term goals of turning places like Orange County blue.

That should not be read to imply that Krom and Fox can’t win. They can, but it won’t happen unless Democrats across the state mobilize to help them out. And in case you’re still not convinced, consider the case of Bill Hedrick.

Hedrick was written off as a longshot candidate in 2008 against Calvert, but running without much national funding, outspent 5-1, Hedrick got 48% of the vote, nearly knocking off Calvert. Hedrick is back to build on that success, and is doing so by espousing a progressive populism. Hedrick understands that his district, straddling the Orange/Riverside county line, includes many voters who are drawn to populism – but it could be populism from the right or the left. Hedrick is embracing it from the left, calling for no more troops to be sent to Afghanistan and taking a strong anti-Wall Street position. Hedrick isn’t getting financial backing from the DCCC here in 2010, but is positioned well to give Calvert all he can handle.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other key red-to-blue efforts this year. In suburban Sacramento, Dr. Ami Bera is running a strong campaign against Dan Lungren, raising more money than Lungren and continuing recent Democratic efforts in the Sierra foothills to score further gains at Republican expense.

And in Riverside County, Palm Springs mayor Steve Pougnet is running a great campaign against Mary Bono Mack, who spends more time representing south Florida than the Inland Empire. Pougnet knows what it takes to win here too, having studied his district as well as the others I mentioned and similarly identifying a massive disconnect between Republican members of Congress and their constituents.

These are the races that will allow California Democrats to do more than just tread water and play defense. California has generally not caught up to the national waves of 2006 and 2008, as we’ve had some success in taking Republican districts but not nearly as much success as the changing nature of these places in California suggests to be possible.

There’s a lot here for Democrats to get excited about. A party committed to building a more progressive California should be a party that gives these candidates their full and strong support between now and November.

8 thoughts on “From Red to Blue in 2010”

  1. You have no idea how much it means to me to read that, as someone who lives in the CD-48 and AD-70, I would love to have one of those amazing women represent me, both, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

    When Melissa announced she was running, I knew we had a shot.  I had gotten to know her while Gary was running, smart, funny and just amazingly talented, I knew we had someone who would work hard.

    And Beth Krom, well, we had a name and someone who had won elections in Irvine, the biggest part of the district.  

    Right now, both these seats are filled with place holders, people who don’t have to bring anything back to the district, who just have to say no, do nothing for their constituents but collect donations and promise to obstruct progress in every way possible.  Except maybe DeVore, who just wants to drill, baby, drill and see the end of public education as we know it.

    Although you gotta love it when DeVore proposed that women get special parking privileges while pregnant.  For some odd reasons women didn’t like the idea of getting handicapped parking just because they might be “with child”.  Talk about an idiot.

    And his possible replacements?  Toll Road Jerry, who wants to run a toll road right through an amazing National park and an important watershed.  And then we have Steven Choi, the guy who wore his Nancy Pelosi as Stalin photo on the back of his suite while she was visiting the OC to speak at the OC Democrats annual Truman Dinner (in the lobby).  Not only that, he was wearing his Irvine city council name badge,  a non-partisan seat.  He defended his choice as well and refused to see how utterly inane it was of him to do such a thing while representing the city that was HOSTING the event.

    These are not just important races to me, not just important races to Orange County.  These races are important to State because we really need to demonstrate each cycle that the State Party will focus in on a few good races and make it their mission to oust Republicans that are weak enough for the picking.

    And the beauty of these two races is that their districts overlap, a lot of the work is in the same area.

    Thanks Robert!

  2. The AD65th is another Red to Blue opportunity this year.  Carl Wood is running a much better resourced campaign than last cycle against incumbent Paul Cook.

    More on this race as I am able, I’m battling a truly brutal layoff in Banning, which is one of the many Inland Empire cities within the 65th.

  3. Because a lot of us were out there creating that wave… we had to get the changes at the national level done first. Now we’re focused on California, though!  

  4. You missed another good one in AD 5, Roger Niello’s seat.

    Democrat Dr. Richard Pan will likely be the nominee. Young, energetic and intelligent, he’s got a good shot at this. His opponent, unfortunately, will be Anthony Pugno, who wrote Prop.8, so they’ll be lots of right-wing money. But I still think Richard can pull it off.

  5. To point out another nuance to CA-44, I’d like to remind Calitics people that Hedrick carried the Riverside County portion of the district- and this is the larger portion of the district. In the last election, the Riverside portion of CA-44 saw 197,738 voters, 52.2% of whom voted Democratic. It was only the heavy Republican swing of the Orange County portion of the district’s 56,089 voters, 63% of whom voted for Calvert, that kept our current representative in office.

    If Orange County Democrats are feeling powerful these days, I’d strongly suggest that they devote some effort to San Clemente. Us Riversiders want to see competent representation for our city, and we need OC Democrats to step up and help us out.

  6. I know every California Democrat salivates at the prospect of one day capturing the formidable stronghold of the Republican Party, Orange County. But I say we have a good candidates out here in the Inland Empire. The 63rd AD went for Prez. Obama +8 and other Inland Empire Assembly Races are much closer.

    Renea Wickman of Redlands has matured and grown since she first started this race for the 63rd.

    While we have no money, we do have a plan!

    We are very optimistic about our prospects. The Republicans are tearing each other apart!


  7. Riverside Community College Trustee Jose Medina is running in AD 64, and like other ADs in Riverside County and the Inland Empire, this district can turn BLUE in 2010.  

    If we are talking about “basic needs [being] neglected by a Republican,” District 64, which encompasses significant portions of the cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Lake Elsinore and Palm Desert (among many other cities), has long had their needs ignored. Assembly District 64, like many districts in Riverside County and the Inland Empire has a longstanding history of being red, like Orange County, and it is up to US and the DEMOCRATS to help turn this district blue. Jose Medina is a proven leader and educator and understands the needs of the citizens of AD-64. He has been a member of the Riverside Community College Board of Trustee’s for the past 12 years and definitely has the community support. We must help bring change to AD-64. This is not some insurmountable hurdle; AD-64 can be won.  

    You can check out his website at

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